Noah ran a hand through his hair, took a deep breath and focused on the camera.
“Hi, my name is Noah Mayer and I’m here to tell you it gets better.”
“What was that man? Who are you – Harvey Milk?”
Noah rolled his eyes at his friend.
“Like you even know who Harvey Milk was.”
“Of course I do. I’ve seen the film plenty of times.” Gabe said, grinning at his friend.
“I thought you were going to help me make this video? I can just put this thing on a tripod and do it myself you know?”
“And make a video without your best friend?” Gabe asked pretending to be hurt.
“Yep. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
“What does a man have to do?” Winston asked as he walked into the room while taking off his jacket.
“Noah thinks he’s Harvey Milk and now he wants to kick me off the project.” Gabe explained.
“What project? What are you two up to now and what does Harvey Milk have to do with anything?”
“I’m making an It Gets Better video.” Noah explained. “Or well.. I’m trying to but Gabe keeps stopping me and saying I sound like Harvey Milk.”
“Well is that so bad?” Winston asked. “He inspired a lot of people, stood up for what he believed in.. just.. try not to get yourself shot by a politician high on junk food ok?”
Both boys laughed.
“I don’t think there’s a big risk of that happening any time soon dad. But we’ll be careful.”
“Good.” Winston said and sat down. “Now tell me.. what’s brought this on? Why do you want to make one of those videos?”
“It happened again.” Noah said opening his laptop and showing his father a news article. “A thirteen year old girl this time. Only thirteen. Her parents found her. I.. I just want to help people like that girl. Try to make them feel better about themselves and about their lives. I’m just so sick of reading about all these suicides.”
Winston read the article and made a face.
“Damn.. poor girl.. poor parents. I don’t think I could’ve coped if I would have found your body when you were that age.. or any age. Don’t get any ideas in your head – either of you.”
“Don’t worry dad.. we’re good now. Everything is fine now.”
Winston got up and squeezed his son’s shoulder.
“Alright. But promise me you’ll tell me as soon as anything changes ok? I’m your father, you can talk to me about everything.”
“Apart from mum and the divorce.”
“We’re not getting a divorce.. your mother just.. needs some time.”
“Sure dad. Just keep talking, I’ll let you know when I start believing you.”
Winston gave him a playful slap on the back of the head.
“Brat. It’s like hearing your mother talk.” He said and walked to the kitchen. “You two just finish your project, I’ll focus on getting the three of us fed.”
“Alright dad.” Noah said and turned his attention back to the camera. “Ok.. let’s do this again.”
“So.. this is it?” Luke asked. “You don’t want to be friends with me anymore now?”
“I didn’t say that Luke.. but you can’t just tell me this and expect me to be ok with it.”
“Why not? Why not Kev? We’ve been friends since forever.. this doesn’t change anything.. I’m still me.”
“No Luke this changes everything.” Kevin said, staring at a spot somewhere behind Luke’s head.
“Why? I’m still the same guy as this morning.. the same guy you were on the basketball team with.. your best friend.” Luke said, trying and failing to keep the hurt out of his voice.
“Yeah.. but my best friend just told me he’s a fag.” Kevin said, now finally looking Luke in the eye. “I.. I just need a while to.. think about this.”
“What is there to think about? Just because I.. I like.. guys.. doesn’t mean we can’t be friends anymore.”
“No.. no it doesn’t.. but.. I just.. need to think about this ok? I’ll see you at school..” Kevin said and walked away.
Luke watched his best friend walk away without even once looking back.
“So did you tell him?” Aaron asked his younger brother when he saw him in the barn later that day.
“Oh yeah I told him alright.” Luke said, fighting back the tears.
“And? What did he say?”
“He called me a fag Aaron. He said he had to think about it all. Think about the fact that his best friend is a fag and if he still wants to be friends with me.”
“Ouch..” Aaron said and bit his lip. “You guys have been friends forever.. he’ll come around.. I guess you just.. surprised him.”
“I surprised you too and you didn’t have to think about it.”
“Well I’m not Kevin Macho Man Davis. He probably thinks you’re crushing on him or something.” Aaron said jokingly.
Luke didn’t reply but just gave his brother a sad look.
“Oh.. wow.. Luke.. I.. I didn’t know. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“What’s the point Aaron? It’s not like he’ll ever like me in that way. Or anyone else for that matter..”
“Don’t say that. You’re a great guy.. I’m sure there’s a guy out there that agrees with me on that one. He’s out there just waiting for you to come sweep him off his feet with your charm.” Aaron said laughingly. “Just because Kevin doesn’t see it that way doesn’t mean no guy will ever see you and fall head over heels in love with you.”
“Sure. Everyone wants to date the loser kid in the striped t-shirt.”
“Well.. maybe a slight change of style can’t hurt..” Aaron grinned. “Come on little bro, rejection hurts but just pick yourself up and move on. You start university in September, I’m sure you’ll meet lots of new people there. Make a fresh start.”
“Aaron.. this is Oakdale.. our last name is Snyder. There is no such thing as a fresh start in this town.” Luke said and left the barn. “Tell mum I’m working on an essay in my room and I don’t want dinner.”
“Luke.. you can’t hide in your room forever..”
“They’re worried about you..”
“No Aaron they’re worried about how it will look to the rest of the world to have a gay son. I bet dad is glad he’s not my biological father now. This one isn’t his fault.”
“Luke.. you know that’s not true..”
“Isn’t it? Ever since I told them they’ve been weird around me. Especially my mum. It’s like they’re ashamed.. and pity me. The one that didn’t quite turn out the way they planned.”
“They just need some time..”
“What if I don’t want to wait for them to figure out what they want to do with me? What if I don’t have that time?!”
“Luke.. don’t do anything stupid.. please.”
“I’ll be in my room. I really do have an essay to write.”
“Are you two done with your video?” Winston asked during dinner.
“Almost.” Noah replied.
“Mr perfectionist over there needs to make sure it lives up to his ridiculously high standards.” Gabe teased.
“I just want it to look good.”
“Noah.. It’s a YouTube video.. you’re not famous.. who’s going to be watching that thing?”
“I don’t know.. but I just want it to look good. I want it to help people.”
“Fancy editing really won’t stop anyone from slitting their wrists or blowing their brains out you know.”
“Can I see it?” Winston asked, trying to stop the boys from having a full blown fight at the dinner table.
“Uhm.. alright.. but.. it’s not finished yet.. I have to edit it before I can post it anywhere.”
“That’s ok. I’m just curious about what you said in your video.”
Noah nodded and hesitantly opened his laptop and showed his father the video.
“Hi, I’m Noah, I’m 18, I’m from Missouri.. and as cheesy as it might sound.. I’m here to tell you it gets better. Maybe not today or tomorrow or even next week.. but it does.. you just have to be patient. I know that’s easier said than done..and it’s easy for me to say because I don’t have your problems.. but I know what it’s like to feel like there’s only one way out. I felt that way too. I’m gay and an army brat. My father is a colonel in the army and an army base isn’t exactly the most gay friendly place in the world. I was really scared to tell my parents. I was convinced my dad would hate me and kick me out. I thought the world would be a better place without me. That I should just end it all and make things easier for everyone. But then I met someone.. and even though we didn’t work out as boyfriends at all.. he turned out to be a great friend and he convinced me to finally tell my parents. He offered me his bed to sleep in if things got messy. I could have his bed and he would sleep on the sofa. Thankfully none of that was necessary. When I finally found the courage to tell my parents they didn’t kick me out or yell at me. They weren’t angry or disappointed. They told me they’d had their suspicions for a while now and that they were glad I finally told them. They said they only wanted me to be happy and didn’t care if that would be with a woman or a man. My mother said she still expects me to make her a grandmother one day and my dad just gave me a hug and said I’ll always be his son. No matter what. And I know how this sounds.. like the perfect story that only happens on TV. That never actually happens in real life.. but I’m real and it happened to me. It got better for me and it will get better for you.”
Oakdale, Illinois – a few days later.
Luke rolled his eyes and closed the video.
“Sure, life will get better for me because he says so. These videos are a joke.. and a cruel one at that.”
Before he knew it he’d typed up a message to this Noah guy telling him exactly what he thought of his video and his positive babbling. And definitely not mention those amazing blue eyes.
- “Hi Noah, I just watched your video and yes it is easy for you to say that things will get better because they did for you. But not all of us are that lucky. I told my best friend this afternoon that I’m gay. He was the first person I told outside of my family. Did he give me a hug and tell me I’d always be his friend? NO! He told me he had to think about things. That everything had changed now he knew his best friend is a fag. That is real life. Not your fairy tale happy ending crap from the Hallmark channel. Telling people your lovely happy little story is just showing them what they can’t have. Tell me, how much did they pay you to tell that story? What’s your next gig? A gay marriage video? Telling everyone how happy you are now you’re married to the love of your life? These things don’t happen in real life. Regular people don’t get the fairy tale endings. Maybe you should make a video for that too.
And P.S. Harvey Milk called. He wants his catchphrase back.”
“Wow.. that guy has issues.” Gabe said reading the message on the screen over Noah’s shoulder.
“Do you think I should reply to his message? Maybe I can calm him down.”
“It’ll take more than a friendly email to calm that guy down..” Gabe said, eyeing the message on the screen. “Ask him for his address and send him some Valium or some happy pills. He sounds like he could use some.”